Congress president Sonia Gandhi addresses the media after a party meeting to review the party's performance in the state assembly elections at the party headquarters in New Delhi on Wednesday. PTI Photo
Taking a cue from its electoral setback, the Congress-led UPA government now wants to reach out more emphatically to the states. Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh will be going to the states to prepare the respective annual distribution of rural funds for the next financial year.
Top representatives of the states — even the chief ministers — come to the capital currently to negotiate the annual rural funds. Ramesh’s deliberate attempt to hold the meetings in the states instead is aimed at forging a better connect in a sector that is crucial to the UPA’s social agenda.
“This annual plan discussion is in the spirit of cooperative federalism,” Ramesh told HT on Wednesday.
The timing of this move assumes significance as several states like Odisha, West Bengal and Bihar have cried foul recently over issues that they feel violate the principles of federalism.
“My ministry is the largest spending ministry of the government of India outside of the defence ministry. One must also remember that, finally, the responsibility of implementation of schemes like MGNREGA or PMGSY lies entirely with the respective state governments,” Ramesh added.
Meanwhile, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, the key trouble-shooter of the government, has also started his back-channel talks with the opposition. “This is to ensure that the budget session runs smoothly and the government can carry on with its business despite the electoral losses,” a Congress strategist told HT.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi has been regularly reminding party leaders to better promote programmes like MGNREGA among the masses.